There are a few places in New Zealand that have played a hugely important part in my life. Trounson Kauri Park and the Waipoua Forest are at the top of that short list. Aware of this, a close friend organised a trip north for the two of us. If it were not for her I may not have made this trip because, aware of the dreadful impact that kauri dieback disease was having in the Waitakere Ranges and in Northland, I was rather fearful of seeing lots of dead and dying kauri trees.
My friend picked me up last Thursday afternoon and we headed north. As we left the city behind us I felt the familiar feeling of relief at getting out of Auckland, but I had no particular expectations of the trip to my favourite kauri trees.
We travelled north through Helensville and alongside the Kaipara Harbour which, because of the spectacular scenery, is my favourite route to Wellsford. As we turned left onto State Highway 12, then shopped at the Matakohe Kauri Museum before heading towards Dargaville, we began reminiscing about some of the other times we had both made this journey north. Arriving at the Top Ten Holiday Park near Trounson we feasted on the wonderful food my friend had made and then wandered around the grounds and along the side of the river.
The next morning we went to Trounson Kauri Park and to my relief it had not changed much since my last visit almost a decade ago. The very moving account of what happened to the kauri forests when the settlers arrived, including some poetry that had moved me to tears when I first read it, was still there. It was sad to see the dead and dying kauri trees, but there were not as many as I had feared. As I neared the end of the walk I became aware that I was saying goodbye to this wonderful place that had occupied such a significant part of my life and that this would probably be my last visit.
The next morning we headed north into the Waipoua Forest and visited Te Matua Ngahere, my favourite kauri tree, and had a quick stop at Tane Mahuta which was also being admired by a bus load of tourists. The Hokianga Harbour was as breathtakingly beautiful as ever, but we did not stop as we were off to have lunch at the Boatshed Café in Rawene and visit Clendon House and the art galleries, before catching the ferry to Kohukohu where we stayed in a lovely old house that I fell in love with.
One of the highlights of the trip was a repeat visit to Clendon House. I had first visited Clendon House well over a decade ago and met Lyndsay Charman-Love who at that time was working on a book about Jane Clendon, the Maori wife of the owner of Clendon House, who was left a widow in 1872 with little money, huge debts and eight children to raise . He planned to call it “The Book of Jane.” When talking excitedly about the poetry I just read at Trounson Kauri Park he told me that he had written it. He then talked at length about Jane, and since then I have never forgotten her.
Imagine my delight on my return visit to Clendon House all these years later to find Lyndsay there again. In fact, I got very emotional and burst into tears. Unfortunately he had not managed to finish “The Book of Jane” because he had been so busy planting thousands of native trees on his property. So I forgave him and bought his book of short stories instead, “Top Hat and Taiaha and other stories,” and he signed it for me.
On so many levels, especially the spiritual and emotional ones, it is impossible to convey how much this trip has meant to me.